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Dyker Heights heart patient gets new lease on life

Henry Scarpati says he is grateful to Maimonides doctors

March 2, 2017 By Paula Katinas Brooklyn Daily Eagle
LVAD recipient Henry Scarpati and his wife Patricia (seated) said they are grateful to the Maimonides team: Dr. Aleksandar Adzic, Dr. Gregory Crooke, LVAD Program Coordinator Rivka Mintz, Registered Nurse Lorraine Carroll, Dr. Norbert Moskovits and Dr. Paul Saunders(left to right). Photo courtesy of Maimonides
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Henry Scarpati said he feels lucky to be alive. Back in November, Scarpati, 64, a lifelong resident of Dyker Heights, felt serious chest pains on his way to visit his mother. He’d had a heart attack ten years earlier and knew more than the average person about coronary artery disease. So when he felt troubling symptoms, he called one of his sons and said, “Take me to Maimonides right away!”

He felt strongly that he needed to get to the doctors, including Dr. Norbert Moskovits, director of the Heart Failure Program at Maimonides Medical Center, who knew him and had been keeping him healthy for years.

“His heart was in trouble again,” his wife, Patricia Scarpati, said. “He was in cardiac arrest, but the ER doctors brought him back, thank God, and called the cardiac doctors. They brought my husband right to the operating room.”

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Patricia Scarpati was referring to the Cardiac Catheterization Lab, where cardiologists repair heart problems by inserting slim catheters into blood vessels and threading them up to the heart. With advanced imaging to guide them, the cardiologists can then “see” what is causing the problem.

It turned out that Scarpati had a complete blockage of a major blood vessel; the most severe type of blockage that leads to massive heart attack.

“The General saved my life,” said Scarpati, referring to Dr. Paul Saunders, surgical co-director of the LVAD Program at Maimonides Medical Center. “That’s the bottom line. I wouldn’t be here if it wasn’t for him and his team,” he said.

Scarpati said he likes to call Saunders “The General,” because he is a take-charge kind of guy. “Dr. Saunders walks in, takes charge and everyone tows the line, including me! With so many things happening, it was really great to have someone like that making you feel like everything was under control.”

Saunders put it simply. “Henry was lucky to be alive. Most people would not have made it through those first few hours, but interventional cardiologist Dr. Sergey Ayzenberg and the Cath Lab team did an amazing job of clearing the blockage and treating him for cardiogenic shock.”

But Scarpati wasn’t out of the woods yet. He suffered respiratory failure and needed a special therapy called extracorporeal membrane oxygenation (ECMO) to support his heart after his heart attack.

The cardiac surgeons at Maimonides have expertise in the lifesaving therapy that helps patients who need both cardiac and respiratory support. ECMO works by pumping blood from the patient, removing carbon dioxide and adding oxygen to it and then returning the blood to circulation in the patient again.

That temporarily solved two problems, but then Scarpati faced another hurdle.

He experienced renal failure. He began dialysis to keep his kidneys functioning, and a team of doctors and nurses worked to help Scarpati regain enough strength to be weaned off the therapy. But all attempts at weaning him off failed. It began to look like there was no realistic hope for Henry Scarpati to survive, Maimonides officials said. 

Saunders had one more card to play. It is called the left ventricular assist device (LVAD).

“The General told us about this LVAD. I was in a fog, but I remember that Dr. Saunders made it understandable,” Scarpati said.

The LVAD has been around for decades and is used to be a temporary aid for people waiting for heart transplants. In recent years, however, medical experts discovered that certain patients suffering from heart failure could be helped with LVAD devices as a permanent implant.

Scarpati’s family agreed to have him undergo the implant procedure.

Slowly over the weeks that followed, he regained his strength. His kidneys no longer needed dialysis and he was weaned off all of the breathing assistance devices. To his delight, his appetite returned. “Macaroni, baked clams, you name it, I had it!” he said.

The LVAD program at Maimonides received certification from The Joint Commission in 2012.

Maimonides is the only center in Brooklyn certified to perform LVAD destination surgery.

The hospital recently hosted a reception for heart patients after the hospital performed its 50th LVAD procedure.

To learn more about the Maimonides Heart & Vascular Center, call 718-283-8284, or visit maimonidesmed.org/heart.

 


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